Materials and Innovation at BIO 23 Ljubljana

Materials and Innovation at BIO 23 Ljubljana

The BIO biennial in Ljubljana has been highlighting contemporary trends in international design for close to fifty years now, but not everyone on the global circuit might be aware of the diverse talent that has been showcased since the first exhibition in 1964. Slovenia's Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) is the biennial's host, and with over 437 submissions from 38 countries for 2012, the jurors and curators for BIO 23 had the challenging task of selecting the best examples of innovative design influenced by modern technology, multi-disciplinary methods, and the exploration of natural systems. Margo Konings and Margriet Vollenberg of Organisation in Design were the joint curators for this year's exhibition theme, Design Relations, which was aimed at comprehensive ideas related to technology, digitalization, globalization, and product design. Folded into these categories were timely topics such as health, machines, and processes; back to craft, counter reaction, data processing, graphics; and proposals linked to industry left-overs, social/local phenomena, the urban environment, and smart solutions. We have highlighted several of the award winners in our gallery slideshow, with specifics about some of the more unusual materials, methods, and conceptual strategies employed.

With more than 100 works selected from 27 countries, category awards were also granted by the international jury of Giulio Cappellini, Sven Jonke, Sophie Lovell, Jimmy MacDonald and Vasa J. Perović. The recipient of the prestigious 2012 BIO Gold Medal also received a grant provided by its sponsor Petrol, and a new award category was also introduced—the BIO Green Award, intended for products that show promise in green design and advocate environmental awareness.

BIO.23 opened with an awards ceremony on September 27 and remains on view through November 11, 2012. The exhibition at MAO's Fužine Castle is accompanied by guided tours, creative workshops for children, film screenings, lectures, a conference, presentations of products, and other related events in and around the city of Ljubljana. The exhibition design for BIO 23 was created by Dutch designer, Joost van Bleiswijk, with graphic design work provided by the Slovene design studio, Kabinet01.

View of the BIO 23 exhibition.

BIO 23 biennial exhibition curators and organizers shared the following ideas regarding "Design Relations": "Contemporary designers seem to embrace the resourcefulness of nature and its processes, while also displaying an amazing capability to use technology. Their explorations not only lead them to (create) commercial products but also help them to better address cultural, social, and emotional questions. BIO 23 is presenting fresh new ideas and exploring how design relates to the social, the sustainable, and the cultural, while displaying crossovers between culture and commerce, crafts and industry."

Sea Chair, designed by Studio Swine and Kieren Jones with co-authors Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves, was a standout entry in the globalisation category at BIO 23. The sculptural seating solution was made entirely from plastic and marine debris recovered from the oceans. It received both the BIO Gold Medal and the BIO Green Award. The tripod stool is made with simple molds and tools that enable production at sea as well as tag recording for geographical coordinates and inventory numbering.

Here's the top of the piece.

Studio Swine and Kieren Jones demonstrate how materials for Sea Chair are collected, harvested, and then recycled into their state-of-the art stool. The Nurdler, pictured here, serves as a hand-powered water pump and sluice that sorts micro-plastic by size and density for further processing. Jurors found this entry to best demonstrate good design with its consideration of life cycles, systems, industrial and social factors on both a local and global stage, as well as the widespread pollution problems that we collectively face. Sea Chair was launched at the Milan Furniture Fair 2012.

Gravity Stool by Jólan van der Wiel received the BIO 23 student work award. The look of this wind-swept seating design was created by combining iron filings, resin, and the power of magnetism. A much talked about submission in the "machines and processes" category, Gravity Stool was created under the supervision of Bas van Beek at Gerrit Rietveld Academie/DesignLab, Amsterdam, The Netherlands in 2011.

"The almost freakish positioning of the magnetic fields in the mold machine largely determines the final shape of the stool. It is the combination of the magnet machine with the plastic material (developed specifically for this purpose) that enabled the designer to start a small but efficient chain of production."

Student Award Winner Irena Rojs' (Un)Useful clothes collection (2012) takes leftovers from the fashion and textile industry and refashions them into one-of-a kind wearables. Her project was created under the guidance of her tutor Metka Vrhunc at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering in Ljubljana. The designer's work with Stella McCartney inspired her to create a collection that addresses waste-minimizing technologies as well as sustainable fashion designs for business women who want more options that utilize recycled textiles and fabrics.

BIO 23 Honorable Mention Award winner, Amsterdam-based designer Rick Tegelaar's MeshMatic lamps demonstrate the poetic fusion of simple materials like chicken wire mesh and luminous bamboo paper. Wet bamboo fiber is formed over the mesh on wooden molds and allowed to dry – allowing for very controlled and accurate shaping.

The designer does not attach objects for bulbs on the interior and the resulting effect is a more diffuse light and radiant glow for interiors.

Rick Tegelaar's kits of tools enables him to form chicken wire over the molds for his MeshMatic lamps. He describes the hands-on nature of the sculpting process as follows: "By stretching the material over a mold, it shrinks itself to the form and takes its shape. The tension that comes into the material from stretching stays captured to form a very efficient structure." See a video of Meshmatics here.

Israeli designer and TED Fellow Adital Ela of S-Sense design also received a BIO 23 Honorable Mention Award for her Terra Stools (2012). These earthen and natural fiber volumes were made by a unique compression process that references ancient building and indigenous techniques. The designer saw herself as a hunter-gatherer of sorts while collecting waste materials from the natural environment and local construction sites. She credits folks such as Daphna Yalon, Tal Bashan, Um Ajaj, and her own grandmother for teaching her this biodegradable, craft-based technique.

Adital Ela of S-Sense design values the potential of earth, clay and natural fiber as the ideal dust-to-dust construction materials. She shares via her website: "Many uses of mud are known throughout history, but I keep going back to the first time I saw the traditional Indian chai clay cup. It is made from clay dried in the sun and after it is used, it is thrown to the ground—blending back within minutes to become earth again. I started asking myself whether products can, like people, come from dust and to dust return?"


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